May 2011

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Last evening, Dean Shirley Collado and I hosted a student forum on student alcohol use and its effects on the campus community.  The purpose of the evening was to share results from a survey administered on campus in the fall of 2010, and then to hear directly from students about how the College might address any and all issues related to the causes and ill effects of alcohol use on our campus.  And there appear to be many issues to address.

There was a large turnout in McCullough, perhaps a result of the rumor that the purpose of the evening was for us to announce we would become a “dry campus.”  The email invitation to the event, which asked whether a dry campus was the only alternative to excessive irresponsible drinking, was intended to be provocative, but, while it drew the hoped-for audience, it also seemed to miss the mark.  Many students saw the email tease as yet another example of administrative heavy-handedness rather than a way to encourage more discussion of a vexing and troublesome issue.

Though this is hardly a new issue or administrative concern, and there seems little new one might learn from a conversation among 300+ students, the evening proved valuable for a number of reasons.  Students got to let us know directly what they saw as problematic with their social lives on campus and how those problems contributed to alcohol abuse; they talked about stress and how that played into their self-described “play hard” weekends and all the consequences; they offered up a number of worthwhile recommendations to address some of the concerns we have about student life and student safety; and it succeeded in getting a good number of students to volunteer to pursue further conversations with the administration to implement changes intended to address the identified problems.

MiddBlog is covering this issue (http://midd-blog.com/2011/05/04/alcohol-forum/#comments ) and The Campus will do an article as well.  I should note that we are working with our fellow NESCAC schools, all of whom share similar experiences with alcohol use, to improve education about alcohol use and to offer alternatives to a social life currently so centered on alcohol.

I hope students, parents, faculty, staff, and alums will send along suggestions and best practices that we might consider alongside what we are doing, and will do, to provide a more balanced, safe, and fun environment for our students.

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